Dec 30, 2019
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Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
Well, 2020 is here. The lectionary reading in Matthew this week reminds me of just how politically selfish and self-centered most of our elected federal representation in Washington seems to be. Regardless of your views on the actions, investigations, character, or status of our president, all indications seem to point to the fact that the Senate will soon start a trial that will end along party lines as did the impeachment proceedings in the House. One side will proclaim guilty, the other not guilty and the not guilty side is currently in the majority. Again, whatever your views, it means we will have wasted millions of dollars and thousands of manhours that could have been spent on something much more worthwhile. Both parties knew the outcome before the circus started, and here we are grandstanding before another election, spending millions more and thousands more manhours with known results.
So, what in the lectionary makes today's news headlines so familiar? The passage comes from Matthew, chapter 2.
After they [visitors from the East] had left, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, "Herod will be looking for the child in order to kill him. So get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you to leave."
Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and left during the night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod died. This was done to make come true what the Lord had said through the prophet, "I called my Son out of Egypt."
When Herod realized that the visitors from the East had tricked him, he was furious. He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its neighborhood who were two years old and younger—this was done in accordance with what he had learned from the visitors about the time when the star had appeared.
In this way what the prophet Jeremiah had said came true:
"A sound is heard in Ramah,
the sound of bitter weeping.
Rachel is crying for her children;
she refuses to be comforted,
for they are dead."
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and go back to the land of Israel, because those who tried to kill the child are dead." So Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went back to Israel.
But when Joseph heard that Archelaus had succeeded his father Herod as king of Judea, he was afraid to go there. He was given more instructions in a dream, so he went to the province of Galilee and made his home in a town named Nazareth. And so what the prophets had said came true: "He will be called a Nazarene." (Matthew 2:13-23 GNT)
Herod wanted no competition. He was one of those political animals who wanted his way no matter what. He would do anything to stay in power, even kill his wives and sons. Talk about ruthless.
The wise men, magi, visitors from the East, whatever title you might give them, heard from God after visiting the king, little "k." They knew the subterfuge Herod played when he wanted the location of the newborn King, capital "K," and went home another way.
What Herod did cannot be excused. We sometimes believe the slaughter numbered in the hundreds and thousands of toddlers in our mind's eye. In reality, the small villages in and around the region probably held few toddlers, and most scholars estimate the number killed at around 20. But imagine soldiers bursting into your home, grabbing your young son, dragging him into the street, and killing him in front of your eyes. This happened in all the villages in and around Bethlehem. The census had passed. Most who came for Caesar's counting left months ago. Mary and Joseph only stayed because Jesus was still too young to travel. That is until the angel told Joseph to go anyway to Egypt.
Herod's action only added fuel to the fire of hatred the Jews had for this tyrannical King. They were only too happy for his reign to end. So was Rome, apparently, since the empire divided Herod's territory into four sections ruled by his four sons instead of remaining under one ruler. The kinds of things Herod did to please himself to hold his seat of power doesn't seem much more self-centered than much of the drama and power struggle we see all around us today.
I'm glad God doesn't take political sides. He didn't take the side of Pharisees or the Sadducees. Nor did Jesus say either was wrong because of their belief, only because they didn't live what they believed and wouldn't believe what they saw right in front of them. He befriended "sinners," Gentiles, and outcasts. But he also befriended some in the temple and synagogues. Jesus just lived the two commands he gave us: love God and love others.
In fact, if the Bethlehem story were replayed today, with our country as its background, he would be born in a broken-down shack in Iowa or more likely in Mississippi, in some backwater town no one could find on a map. The politics in Washington would be of no concern to him. However, everyone would ask him which side he preferred, he would never give an answer to such a stupid question. Particularly since all parties have become so corrupt in recent years, no exception.
Every religion would tell us how corrupt he is because he refuses to play by the rules. He wouldn't raise money for their cause. He wouldn't join the bandwagon of most of the charities across the country because they put more in the administrations' pockets than they do their client benefits.
Jesus would be unimpressed by our wealth, our things, our burgeoning economy, our technology, our entertainment, our leisure, most everything we think is great. I think he would look at it and tell us, like the rich young ruler, to get rid of the surplus and give to the poor to inherit the kingdom of heaven.
Things aren't bad. Wealth isn't bad. Money isn't bad. Jesus never said any of those things are bad. It's the priority we put on them. Unless he is above all else, he takes no place in our life. Jesus refuses second place.
Over the next several weeks and months across the country, a lot of people will try to get you stirred up about the circus happening in Congress. Frankly, whatever happens, doesn't matter. God is still in charge. He doesn't play politics. Never has. He allowed Donald Trump to be elected. Not the Russians, not the Democratic or Republican Parties, not some computer hacker somewhere. This is God's world, and he allows people in power to govern.
We might not like it. The Israelites didn't like it when the Babylonians took them into exile or when the Greeks and Romans ruled over them. But they also understood that God calls the shots, not them. If we understand God, we realize that he still cares for us, and the things of the world never shake him off his throne. We don't need to get excited about what will happen, or not, throughout the Washington circus. We can be frustrated at the waste of our tax dollars. Still, if our Congressmen and women weren't spending the millions on this fiasco, they'd probably be spending it on something just as ridiculous and wasteful. So enjoy the new year, trusting God to take care of you when you love him and others. Remember, too, we are directed to pray for our leaders - both parties. Their good means good for our nation. So pray for their good.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible-based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.
Good News Translation® (Today’s English Version, Second Edition) Copyright © 1992 American Bible Society. All rights reserved.